Local church partners with nonprofit to create veterans memorial
New Hope and VConnections bring community together through initiative
New Hope Church of God in Waldorf is accepting submissions for the Community Veterans Memorial, a monument displayed in front of the church honoring Charles County service members and their families.
There will be a dedication for the memorial on Sept. 10, with several local figures expected to be in attendance including Charles County Board of Commissioners’ President
Peter Murphy (D) and Charles County Sheriff Troy Berry (D).
The 5-foot-tall, obsidian-colored structure has a message honoring soldiers on its face and a note to families of troops on its rear. The monument sits above hundreds of bricks laid in the pattern of a cross, which can be purchased and then printed with the name of a deceased loved one. An American flag flies overhead, and spotlights are positioned at the base of the site to illuminate the memorial after dusk.
“We wanted to bridge the military and the community together,” said the Rev. Aaron Jones of New Hope. “In this area, there’s not too much you have to memorialize a member of your family.”
Jones served in the U.S. Army for 20 years as a chaplain, including on the front lines in Iraq. He said there are at least 40 to 50 veterans in his congregation.
The church partnered with local nonprofit VConnnections to design and build the memorial. The Southern Maryland organization works to provide resources for veterans and their families, making it an ideal collaborator for the project. VConnections founder and CEO Bill Buffington took the lead on the project, working with Jones to bring it to fruition.
“It’s something we thought was needed in Charles County,” Buffington said. “I know the American Legion has a memorial, but for a faith-based organization to actually step up to the plate ... it’s a big step.”
Bricks cost $125 and those interested can contact the church for details. Participants are given a sheet of paper to write their message, and up to three lines for text. Jones said many people list years of service or which conflicts the person fought in under the names of the deceased.
Buffington and Jones both stressed that while the memorial is located at the church, participants do not need to have any affiliation to the church or directly to military service. The bricks nearest the monument are for veterans or those with military ties, but there is also an area at the bottom portion of the cross simply for deceased family members. New Hope and VConnections want to create a place to honor those in the community regardless of military history, even though recognizing veterans is the primar y purpose.
“I want this to be known as the Charles County memorial,” Jones said.
The front of the Community Veterans Memorial at New Hope Church of God shows a saluting soldier and a message to fallen troops.
The back side of the Community Veterans Memorial at New Hope Church of God offers thanks to family members of soldiers.